What Kind of Game is Starfield? [No Spoilers]

I am really enjoying Starfield, and so am in danger of getting overly apologetic about its flaws (and it certainly does have some) but I just wanted to try to clear up what seems to be some confusion around what it actually is.

BIG CAVEAT that I am still early in the game so maybe some things change eventually.

Anyway most of the negative reviews and comments I’ve seen really boil down to Starfield not being what that person wanted it to be. Things that Starfield is not: No Man’s Sky, Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen. It isn’t a space sim. In fact if you hate space sims you very well might still love Starfield.

Things Starfield is: Skyrim in Space.

Bethesda has given us ways to cut out a lot of space travel. While landed and sitting in your ship you can use the Star Map to pick a planet in another star system and just ‘jump’ (essentially, fast travel) straight to it. Then you can land straight-away. No actual flying involved.  Alternatively, you can take-off from the planet you are on (and yes, going from landed to space is a quick cut-scene, not an organic transition) then fly around above the planet you just came from, then plot a course to another star system, Grav Jump to it, then fly around there before landing. But that’s your choice. You’ll find random encounters and dogfights if you choose to do this. It’s up to you, which is always dangerous because gamers have a habit of optimizing gameplay for efficiency and then complaining about not being forced to do the stuff they opted to skip.

Frankly I WOULD like more space flight choices. There is no equivalent to No Man’s Sky’s “Pulse Drive” that lets you zoom between planets in a solar system, stopping anywhere. Practically speaking you’ll want to “Jump” between planets. In fact if your destination is on the far side of a planet you probably even want to use the Star Map and jump there. Space is really big in Starfield and conventional flight is pretty slow. I’d also love to use the Grav Jump from the cockpit view but so far I can’t (there seem to be options that are only unlocked once you learn a skill, liking using Thrusters to add Newtonian physics to dogfights). [UPDATE: I got this wrong. From in the cockpit if you target a destination you can then manually jump to it from the pilot’s seat, assuming the destination is within range of your Grav drive. You just manually shunt some power to the Grav drive and off you go.]

This is duplicated planet-side. Assuming you have a mission objective on a planet, you can pick it from the map and choose to land there. You’ll generally be pretty close to your destination. Then you go do whatever it is you need to do, which will probably involve a lot of fun pew-pewing. When you’ve completed your objective you can fast travel right back to your ship (as long as you aren’t over-encumbered). But you can also CHOOSE to walk back too. And along the way may you can gather some resources, scan some stuff, fight some alien beasties… and then you can keep walking PAST your ship out into the wilds and find abandoned bases full of loot and enemies. But you don’t have to do any of this. You can basically fast travel to the ship then fast travel to another solar system.

And as in any Bethesda game you can rush through it or you can stop to explore nooks and crannies and read log files and listen to audio files and soak in the lore. But you don’t have to.

Honestly aside from “Skyrim in Space” the best comparison I can think of based on what I’ve seen so far is The Outer Worlds, but of course without the wacky humor. Starfield is a space game the way The Outer Worlds is a space game. If you’re looking for a hardcore space simulator, yeah, you’re probably going to find Starfield lacking. But if you’re looking for a traditional Bethesda RPG that happens to take place in space (and with some neat additional features because this is 2023 and not 2015 — when BGS’s last game, Fallout 4 — released) then you’re probably going to have fun.

I’m actually playing on two different saves now.

Save 1 is Amos (based loosely on the Expanse character) who is an ex-Bouncer and a Neon City Street Rat. He doesn’t mess about much, has few qualms about shooting first and asking questions never, and in gaming terms, he is mainlining the main quests.

Save 2 is Tess, a former chef (!) whose still has parents to visit (this is a Trait and I’m not really sure what it means yet) and who is empathic. She is kind of a completionist and an ardent explorer (ie she can’t be bothered with the main story quest when there may be alien creatures to discover just over the next rise).

What’s neat is both of these play styles have been really fun so far (though I will soon be WAY behind everyone else because I’m splitting my time between the two). I’m in no hurry though as I figure Starfield is going to be on my system for a LONG while. Heck I still have Skyrim installed.

I’m really looking forward to how the game changes over time both via official patches and by mods.

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